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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Washington Square stickball...

It’s the dead of summer 1975, hot as hell, hanging out in Washington Square among the mob of latter day degenerate hippies, proto-punks, bums, buttboys and frisbee freaks. Beautiful steaming manhole nights. The city’s dead broke and cops are few and far between and those still left are busy on the take.
I’ve been buying handfuls of joints off the black guys at the southeast corner of the Square. Very cordial types, soft spoken, like old time junkies were said to be. I resell the weed to white NYU and Cooper Union kids in the nearby bars and clubs – doubling my money. The fags cruise down here looking for young ass but I’m just too goddamn pretty for that.

So it’s middle of the night in the Square. A bunch of us young dummies, some old drunks, a few of the livelier junkies and a couple drag queens, we’re playing stickball under that giant arch, using a broom handle and a stone with a rag tied around it as a ball, garbage cans for bases, everybody drinking over-fermented homemade wine. I take a couple swings with the broom handle, run around and get thrown out at second. Ce la fuckin vie.
I go sit on the benches and this guy in a pricey camel color sports jacket and dark dress pants parks himself beside me. He looks round and asks if it’d be a good idea to sleep here. We both laugh and I say, “Only if you want to wake up naked or dead.”
 But he doesn’t come off as queer and anyway, I’m not exactly pushing my looks, wearing nothing but dingy white cover-alls, white Converse and a wolf’s tooth around my neck on a leather thong a sad girl from Connecticut made for me. I’d met her on the bus and she was doomstruck and heading back to her parents in the sticks.
So this guy in the expensive outfit eyeballs me, my get up, my long black straight hair, my big schnoz and he says: “My people got fucked over bad but your people got all but wiped out.”
“My people?”
“Yeah, brother. I think I seen maybe three Indians my whole goddamn life – except for on TV. Didn’t you motherfuckers own this turf back when? Traded it for a some fucking beads?”
With my shoulder length hair, black as a raven’s wing, my Cro-Mag brow, my black eyes and hairless chest showing, his idea makes sense. I figure what the hell, why ruin his day.
“Fuckin right,” I reply. “I think my great great granddads got a couple bottles with them beads.”
We laugh again and he shakes his head. “Fuckin whitey…” We muse on that for a little while then he turns to me. “You wanna grab some food? What you feel like?”
“Breakfast. It’s already past four. But I can eat breakfast any time.”
He grunts. “Shit yeah… Malcolm says don’t eat pigs but goddamn that bacon sure taste good.”
“Sure does.”
He holds out his hand. “Horace.”
“James.”
“You don’t got no Indian name, like Chingachgook or that?”
“No.”
“Well, why the fuck not?”
“You got an African name?”
He nods. “All right. True enough. Let’s go. Grab a cab up to Thirty-Fifth, all night diner there with big motherfuckin breakfast, cornbread, fat home fries, all that good shit.”

After we guzzle a big greasy mess and lots of coffee, Horace stands at the curb picking his teeth, the two of us just groovin on the early rush hour. He looks up and down Ninth. “I wanna show you something. I got this business. Come take a look.”
I figure what the fuck and we cab it up Eighth Avenue to Forty-Second. We stop at a block of rotten old five storey row jobs across from where they’ve been building the new Port Authority for fuckin ever. He leads me toward one of these places. A bunch of whores are sitting on the steps, one girl to each couple of steps, while another bunch are out on the street, collaring the herds of white working stiffs coming off the buses and trains to go to their daily toils. Every time the whores out on the street drag their tricks into the building, the next bunch hit the bricks and the whole line moves down the steps.
We go in the boarded-up double doors and there’s whores all the way up, sitting on the stairs, moving down every time the next dozen or so haul their marks into some rooms on the ground floor. Horace leads me up and there’s whores almost all the way to the top – must be sixty or seventy of them. The ones who’ve just finished up their customers climb to the end of the line and rejoin the cycle.
A few of these women look up at Horace and nod or mumble something. A couple are cocky, full of sass. “Who’s your little fella, Horace?”
“Leave him alone. He’s a fuckin Indian.”
“No shit?” says one girl. “Like a real fuckin Indian?” Her and a few of her friends pat their rounded lips flathanded, whooping, then cackle and hack good and loud.
“Shut the fuck up with that shit,” Horace growls. He gestures to me with his chin. “Don’t listen to them bitches. C’mon.”
When we reach the top floor he pulls out a wad of keys attached to his belt on the end of a thin, retractable cable. He opens a big Yale then unlocks a couple deadbolts, guides me inside and closes the door. It a nice big studio with old leaded skylights, slick Italian designarino stuff, lots of chrome and black leather. There’s a real fireplace and a pair of big stylish easy chairs facing some cold black logs.
Horace removes his jacket and carefully hangs it up. “Take a load off.”
He’s fussing behind me as I sit down and comes round the chairs with a couple snifters of choice cognac, hands me one then takes the other seat. On the table between us is a small humidor. He opens it and passs me a cigar and clippers. So we clip our stogies, light up and stare at the unlit fire, just patiently smoke and sip this fine booze at 6am on a hot July morning.
Horace nods absentmindedly. “Yeah…” he sighs, “shit's fucked right up, ain’t it?…”
“Sure is…”